CAPE TOWN - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday asked health officials in the Western Cape to investigate allegations of racism and ill-treatment of patients at the Paarl hospital and the Phola Park clinic.
Madonsela's spokeswoman Kgalalelo Masibi said her request followed complaints by several patients who approached her during her unannounced visits to the two facilities, ahead of her meeting with community members at Paarl East Thusong Community Centre.
"The people are complaining about uncaring attitudes while some have alleged racism. We have asked the hospital and clinic to look into these issues and find out why people are saying that," she said.
Madonsela was in the Western Cape as part of her annual stakeholder dialogue and public hearings.
The campaign focuses on strengthening government's ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on ending poverty and on health.
Masibi said that during the visit to Phola Park clinic, IsiXhosa-speaking patients complained about a communication breakdown between themselves and medical staff at the clinic due to the fact that they were not proficient in either English or Afrikaans.
"Some added that medical staff had been rude towards them."
One woman complained that her child had been denied access to Paarl Hospital.
The woman claimed that she was violently manhandled by security personnel at the facility when she tried to enter the hospital, Masibi said.
There were further complaints about patients waiting for too long in queues before receiving attention from nursing staff.
In addition, patients who arrived after the intake number for the day had been reached, usually as early as 9am, were told to return the following day.
A complaint shared by medical staff at the clinic was that the facility was too small to cater for the community of Mbekweni.
It was also said to be understaffed and often ran short of medical supplies, including medication for hypertension and epilepsy patients.
Medical staff complained about the shortage of equipment such as blood pressure monitors and scales.
They added that the clinic did not have a dedicated pharmacist and that there was often no relief staff when they needed to go on leave.
Most of the health matters raised during the meeting mirrored those brought to the fore during the unannounced visits.
Other complaints included RDP housing challenges, problems with social grants, unemployment, economic exclusion on the basis of age, rising electricity costs, pensions for retired civil servants and land claims that were not being processed.
Madonsela pledged to work with authorities to immediately resolve urgent matters and engage communities further to get more details as part of her investigations.